BY RANDY HOBACK
It shouldn’t take the premier of any province publicly begging the Prime Minister to help an industry under attack for that Prime Minister to finally do something.
Yet that is exactly what is happening in Canada’s imperiled canola sector.
Earlier this week, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe took the unprecedented step of making public a letter he sent to Justin Trudeau pleading with him to finally act to help canola farmers who have become victims of Trudeau’s failed relationship with China.
After illegally detaining two Canadian citizens, China stripped two major Canadian grain companies of their canola export licenses and has stopped purchasing Canadian canola seed altogether.
Over half of the agri-food products grown in Canada are exported, making ours one of the most trade-dependent agricultural sectors in the world. It’s not surprising, then, that industry groups and provincial governments are crying out for help. However, their pleas are falling on deaf ears in Trudeau’s Ottawa.
“Saskatchewan is becoming increasingly concerned that your government has offered no concrete support for Canada’s canola producers,” Moe wrote.
Unfortunately, this has become the norm under Trudeau. Since he became Prime Minister, Canadian farmers have lost more and more access to the global markets on which they rely for their livelihood.
One in five Canadian jobs depends on exports like canola, but thanks in part to Trudeau’s failures on the world stage, our world is getting smaller and smaller. Canola is only the latest casualty, now that Canada’s relationship with China — our second largest trading partner — is at an historic low.
Italy has shut out Canadian durum wheat. India has imposed punishing tariffs on Canadian pulses. Vietnam has stopped importing Canadian wheat. And now China has put an embargo on Canadian canola.
Canola seed exports to China alone were worth $2.7 billion last year. Fully 90% of canola grown in Canada is exported, and 40% of that total goes to China. The loss of the Chinese market hits Canadian producers directly and severely.
At a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, Stephen Vandervalk, a canola farmer and Vice-President of the Alberta Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, stated he had already lost $50,000 since early March.
He added that he could potentially lose $100,000 or more if the Chinese blockade continues. It is the same for canola farmers across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and even for many in Ontario and Quebec.
At a time when farmers should be getting ready to seed, they are instead looking to Ottawa for answers and for help. The Trudeau government has provided neither.
On nine separate occasions, Liberals have rejected demands from Conservatives for an emergency debate on the issue in the House of Commons.
The Liberal response has been typical of a government that doesn’t understand western Canada. They have convened a “working group” that meets to discuss the problem but hasn’t yet proposed any solutions. They have asked the Chinese government for permission to send a technical delegation to China when it’s already widely acknowledged that Canadian canola is the best and safest in the world.
This is a political problem of Trudeau’s own making, and one of several consequences Canadians have suffered because of his weak and naive approach to China.
His trade minister and foreign affairs minister both have yet to reach out to their Chinese counterparts to resolve this trade crisis. Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are still locked up in a Chinese prison cell with the lights on 24 hours a day. Huawei remains a significant cybersecurity threat that is largely ignored. And Justin Trudeau still hasn’t replaced his ambassador to China months after his dismissal over another international embarrassment.
Canadians are paying for all of these mistakes with their lives and their livelihoods. Just ask a canola farmer.
A real plan is needed now.
— Randy Hoback is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Prince Alberta and the Deputy Shadow Minister for International Trade Diversification
On Twitter: @MPRandyHoback